Lloyd took a break from his usual seduction routine on 2009’s Like Me: The Young Goldie EP, a free mini-album that played off the oddness of his slithering, feathery voice. The EP’s dark, confessional tone demonstrated a range the singer hadn’t previously hinted at, and it might have made a thrilling template for a full-length if he’d opted to continue down that path. But Lloyd isn’t really the tortured type. Far from it—he’s modern R&B’s most irrepressible romantic, matching his contemporaries’ bottomless libido with the boyish mirth of a young Michael Jackson. Instead of following Like Me into the shadows, Lloyd’s fourth album, King Of Hearts, doubles down on his amorous enthusiasm, pushing it to such delirious extremes that these songs feel risky and uncharted even as they play to his most obvious strengths.
Guiding that gambit is producer Polow da Don, who dials up tempos that nearly match his recent strobe-light hits for Usher, as well as wayward detours that would never fly on an Usher record. With its sly Andre 3000 verse and tipsy Farfisa organ groove, “Dedication To My Ex (Miss That)” is the type of screwball retro-soul that’s usually Cee Lo’s domain. “Cupid” sets a Stevie Wonder-styled celebration of love to a club pulse, while the bed-burner “Lay It Down” swells to a jubilant, nearly yodeled chorus that it’s difficult to imagine any other singer committing to so gleefully. When Lloyd beckons “Lay your head on my pillow,” he’s suggesting a new sex position, yet he sings it like a sweet nothing. His charm is that he genuinely doesn’t see the distinction.